European Journal of Ageing

, Volume 2, Issue 4, pp 254–263 | Cite as

Cohort- and age-related decline in elder’s life satisfaction: is there really a paradox?

  • Oliver Karl SchillingEmail author
Original Investigation


Absence of age-related decline in elder’s life satisfaction (LS), found in several studies from the last quarter of the twentieth century, has been labelled a “paradox”, as it contrasts with increasing psycho-social and health risks in old age. To explain these findings, the present study was based on the hypothesis of a cohort effect on the LS of those born in the first half of the twentieth century, which might have overlayed and thus obscured the age-related decline in cross-sectional studies. In addition, it was hypothesized that the age-related decline in LS accelerates over the old age period such that the “paradox” would not hold for old–old subjects. Longitudinal analysis was conducted by means of multilevel mixed models, using data from the German Socio-Economic Panel. Analyzing single-item measures of LS from 16 panel waves (1984–1999), the findings confirm both hypotheses. For the young–old, cohort- and age-related decline was found with about equal decrements in LS per year of birth or age, neutralizing age-group differences in cross-sectional comparisons. For the old–old, the age-related decline appeared accelerated, outnumbering the cohort effect.


Well-being Life satisfaction Aging Longitudinal studies Multilevel mixed models 



The data used in this publication were made available by the German Socio-Economic Panel Study at the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW), Berlin.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.German Centre for Research on Ageing at the University of HeidelbergHeidelbergGermany

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